1. IN ATTENDANCE: Dave Landau; Dave Church; Gerry Byrne; Toby Abse; Pete McLaren

2. CONFIRMATION OF AGENDA – agreed as published

3. APOLOGIES – None

4. MINUTES OF SA AGM NOV 21 2010 – Agreed as correct

5. MATTERS ARISING FROM THOSE MINUTES – None

6. OFFICERS REPORTS a) Secretary

Pete McLaren spoke to his circulated written report. He described how much of the discussion at NEC meetings was on how best to build socialist unity given the existence of so many competing anti cuts bodies at national level. He outlined the priorities for the SA agreed at the 2010 AGM.

He went on to outline the extent to which we had implemented those policies

  • The Socialist Alliance has leafleted national anti cuts meetings to promote unity.
  • One of our members was elected to the Anti Cuts Committee of the National Shop Stewards Network.
  • One of our members stood as a TUSC candidate in the local elections, promoting the Socialist Alliance in his candidature.
  • The SA has continued to co-ordinate the LULC, which has continued to meet and discuss issues of common interest to different left groups. However, attendance at meetings has waned and the SA now has the task of how best to build left unity, a job not many other organisations could do.
  • A number of our members have continued to work hard for socialist unity – in the North East, London and the Midlands.
  • We have also worked hard both on and within TUSC.
    • Our members and former members have built local TUSC branches
    • Members have helped persuade the National Steering Committee of TUSC to discuss ways of including representatives of supporting political organisations like the SA, representatives of local TU branches and TUSC branches – agreed unanimously at the July TUSC Conference
    • Most significantly, TUSC has accepted the pressure from past and present members of the SA to give representation on the Steering Committee to individual supporters of TUSC – independent socialists.
    • One of our members has recently been elected to be one of two such representatives through the Independent Socialist Network (ISN), a body within TUSC open to all independent socialists who are not members of national left organisations – and that includes SA members.
    • The ISN, composed largely of SA members past and present, seems like an embryonic socialist alliance with its commitment to a new workers’ party and an expressed determination to continue developing whatever happens to its parent body, TUSC

There has been limited progress however in terms of unity on the left, he continued. There are now four national projects claiming leadership of the anti cuts movement - the National Shop Stewards Network, Right to Work, Coalition of Resistance, and, recently, Unite the Resistance, ostensibly set up by the SWP to build for N30. TUSC provides a further, but starkly different alternative – an anti cuts body with local and national structures which offers a political voice to the anti cuts movement by standing anti cuts election candidates

In terms of broader left unity, the Left Unity Liaison Committee has stuttered almost to a halt. We have been asked to find out why so many groups no longer regularly attend. Because of the development of TUSC, the CNWP has only met once this year, and the results of that meeting were inconclusive.

In conclusion, he argued, the Socialist Alliance remains a small organization at national level with a dedicated number of activists. It continues to have an influence on the left, partly because of the work of our members, but largely because of its background, tradition and, in particular, the commitment to socialist unity as part of the process in building a new Left Party.

This constitutes the unique position of the SA – no other left political group shears that determination for unity, let alone the long history of working tirelessly to achieve it. Former members continue to show that determination along with many of the other principles the SA enshrines as witnessed at the recent launch meeting of the TUSC Independent Socialist Network.

There will come a time in the coming period, he added, when we will have to decide whether we should remain as an organization of individual socialists, or whether we should merge ourselves as a faction into something more viable long term that sits with enough of our principles. That could be TUSC, or what, if anything, comes out of TUSC, or it could be TUSC’s Independent Socialist Network (ISN). Events will dictate what will become the best option for the SA. He felt both TUSC and the ISN were, potentially, exciting developments

In the meantime, the SA must continue to move forward with realistic goals and an organization that enables it to continue to function. SA members must remain active in their trade unions and their localities, continuing to encourage non-sectarian, open and democratic ways of working. The SA itself can, as an organization, influence left political projects as they develop. Our commitment to left unity at every level can continue to have a healthy effect on developments on the left. This may mean hanging in there until developments elsewhere move the party project forward – a sort of holding position. We are not new to that position, and we have managed to achieve it so far in a number of ways. He remained confident that the SA, as presently constituted, and with a bit of tweaking here and there, could remain a positive influence on left politics whilst it determines whether its longer term future lies within a larger organization committed to its long held desire for a new Left Party rooted within the working class which is unashamedly socialist, democratic, open, non-sectarian and united.

b) Chair

Gerry Byrne began by explaining she was not convinced about TUSC or the ISN, and that therefore she would be abstaining on the resolution. She was sceptical about the ISN because of the history of some of its leading personnel, and because, like TUSC, it was not democratic, transparent or built from the grassroots. She felt the window of opportunity for left unity had passed with there being four national anti-cuts bodies. This was preventing a united opposition to the Government. Public sector action may move things forward. Until then, she thought the role of the SA was limited, just holding itself together whilst awaiting developments

c) Treasurer – FINANCE REPORT

Pete McLaren reported a balance of £142.58, compared to £95.58 twelve months previously. Membership income, donations and affiliation income had all dropped significantly, but so had spending on printing, room hire and, most significantly, travel to meetings. He felt the balance was reasonable given our size. He asked again for a Treasurer to be elected – it was agreed to ask the NEC to discuss.

The Treasurer’s report was accepted.

7. MEMBERSHIP AND AFFILIATION FEES

a) Membership Fee – at present it is £30/8 pa

b) Affiliation Fee - at present it is £50 for organisations with over 50 members; £40 for organisations between 25 and 49 members; £30 for organisations with up to 25 members; £15 for local alliances.

It was agreed to keep membership and affiliation fees at present rates, but ask the NEC to look at introducing monthly standing orders in addition to, or as part of, membership fees

8. AGM POLICY MOTION RESOLUTION TO THE 2011 SA AGM FROM PETE McLAREN

Pete McLaren moved the resolution on the way the SA should progress in the coming period. He began by describing the resolution as an attempt to describe where we are at, and to set realistic and achievable goals given our size – but goals which give us a raison d’etre. He listed what we agreed at the last AGM and set out what progress we had made towards achieving those goals in terms of promoting unity; influence through elections in the NSSN and by having a Rugby TUSC candidate; within TUSC – by building branches and the ISN which was like an embryonic SA committed to a new socialist party. He then listed and explained his suggested goals for the next period:

  • Re-iteration of our commitment to left unity and the formation of a new Left Party based solidly within the working class
  • The need to resolve issues around the LULC, about left unity, suggesting a Left Notice Board
  • Encourage the CNWP to democratically decide whether it has a future
  • Work to build TUSC by encouraging local TUSC branches to be set up, preferably with structure
  • Use such developments to promote a bottom upwards democracy that increasingly moves TUSC into become a new Socialist party rather than a Coalition
  • Campaign within TUSC to ensure that, as agreed at Conference, it works with other genuine anti cuts campaigners to select as many anti cuts candidates as possible to work alongside TUSC
  • Work within TUSC to ensure that it broadens out its structure to welcome representation from TUSC branches, TU branches, political organisations and independents supportive of TUSC
  • Work within the ISN to develop it as a campaigning organization within TUSC

He concluded by outlining the most radical proposal:

  • Whilst clearly keeping its own identity, consider whether we should plan for the SA to become a faction within TUSC and/or the ISN if/when that becomes appropriate – whilst remaining as the SA before that discussion has been finalized and whilst it is taking place – with members meanwhile encouraged to be heavily immersed within TUSC/ISN, and helping to build them.

The following were among the points made in the discussion:

  • The failure to set up a new Left Party means workers who are increasingly seeing through Labour have nowhere to go
  • The ISN is like a Socialist Alliance mark 2. Its leaders have acknowledged their past mistakes
  • The ISN and the SA need to work closely together
  • The targets in the resolution are realistic – this is almost the last throw of the dice. The resolution reflects where we are at
  • There is still some mistrust of some leading members of the ISN but we must play a watching brief and support it. We are not yet ready to dissolve the SA into the ISN. Setting up local TUSC/ISN groups is important
  • TUSC should contest by-elections. It is not contesting the London mayoral elections because neither the SWP nor the FBU will oppose Livingstone – and TUSC works by consensus
  • The media is looking for any opposition to the cuts agenda – TUSC can pick up on that
  • We must make sure TUSC does not revert to a No2EU position in the European elections
  • There is a danger of the nationalism in Europe being mirrored within TUSC/No2EU
  • We need to keep going. The first ISN meeting was positive, including how everyone was prepared to include Pete McLaren as an ISN delegate to the TUSC SC. We should encourage anything that could work
  • We should build for the January ISN Meeting
  • It is disappointing the CNWP seems to be finished – it had a better programme
  • The economic crisis is huge and likely to worsen. Protest is growing. We need to build on N30. New groups are joining the struggle, like the Occupy Movement – some groups are more anarchistic than socialist

The resolution was agreed, as below, without dissent with one abstention

RESOLUTION TO THE 2011 SA AGM FROM PETE McLAREN

Last year, the Socialist Alliance AGM defined its main role as being to continue promoting the need for left unity, and link this to a need for a new Left Party based solidly within the working class.

Specifically, it was agreed to

  • Continue our co-ordination of the LULC
  • Continue our commitment to building the Campaign for a New Workers Party
  • Continue to work on making TUSC more democratic, representative and open
  • Support SA members who wished to stand as anti cuts candidates
  • Attempt to persuade the various anti cuts bodies to work together.
  • Encourage unity at every level against the anti working class policies of the Con-Dem Government, and for a unified, socialist, democratically organised response

The SA has made some progress towards achieving these relatively bold aims given the size of the SA

  • The Socialist Alliance has leafleted national anti cuts meetings to promote unity.
  • One of our members was elected to the Anti Cuts Committee of the National Shop Stewards Network.
  • Another member stood as a TUSC candidate in the local elections, promoting the Socialist Alliance in his candidature.
  • The SA has continued to co-ordinate the LULC, which has continued to meet and discuss issues of common interest to different left groups. However, attendance at meetings has waned and the SA now has the task of how best to build left unity, a job not many other organisations could do.
  • A number of our members have continued to work tirelessly for socialist unity in their local areas.
  • SA members have worked hard both on and within TUSC.

v Present and past members have built local TUSC branches and helped successfully persuade the Steering Committee of TUSC to discuss ways of including representatives of supporting political organisations like the SA, representatives of local TU branches and TUSC branches.

v SA members have been involved with the setting up of the Independent Socialist Network (ISN) – an organisation within TUSC open to all independent socialists who are not members of national left organisations, and that includes SA members – which is committed to campaigning for a new socialist party and has the potential and the capacity to remain in existence if, for any reason, the TUSC project does not last

v Most significantly, TUSC has accepted the pressure from past and present members of the SA to give representation on the Steering Committee to individual supporters of TUSC – independent socialists. One of our members has recently been elected to be one of two such representatives through the ISN

For the next period, the SA re-iterates is commitments to left unity and the formation of a new Left Party based solidly within the working class. Specifically, the SA agrees to

  • Find out why left organisations are generally not supporting the LULC, and ascertain to what extent they want left unity, suggesting a Left Notice Board as one positive way forward
  • Encourage the CNWP to democratically decide whether it has a future, suggesting it may want to hold a waiting brief whilst TUSC develops
  • Work to build TUSC by encouraging local TUSC branches to be set up, preferably with structure and membership, and use such developments to promote a bottom upwards democracy that increasingly moves TUSC into becoming a new Socialist party rather than a Coalition
  • Campaign within TUSC to ensure the principles agreed at the July TUSC Conference are put into practice, including working with other genuine anti cuts campaigners, community groups and organisations to select anti cuts candidates in as many seats as possible to work alongside TUSC candidates
  • Work within TUSC to ensure, as agreed, that it broadens out its structure at national level to welcome representation from local TUSC branches as well as trade union branches, political organisations and independents supportive of TUSC
  • Work within the ISN to develop it as a campaigning organization within TUSC
  • Whilst clearly keeping its own identity, consider whether we should plan for the SA to become a faction within TUSC and/or the ISN if/when that becomes appropriate - whilst remaining as the SA but with members encouraged to be heavily immersed within TUSC/ISN, and helping to build them.

9 ELECTION OF THE SA NEC – The following were elected: Dave Landau; Pete McLaren; Gerry Byrne; Toby Abse. The NEC agreed to meet next at 3pm on Sun Feb 5 at the Lucas Arms

Pete McLaren, SA National Secretary 01/01/12

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